Heat veteran Udonis Haslem’s season debut lasted three minutes.
He saw his first minutes of the season, starting the second quarter of the Heat’s eventual 106-94 win over the Sixers on Thursday night, where he nearly came to blows with Sixers center Dwight Howard.
Haslem, in his 18th NBA season, received a double technical and an ejection after he got in the face of Howard and pointed his finger during a heated exchange. Haslem’s anger appeared to be fueled by Howard throwing him to the floor on a previous possession. Afterward, Haslem sat on the court for a few seconds, seemingly assessing the situation.
The longtime Heat star — who turns 41 in June and is the NBA’s oldest active player — scored four points before he was ejected.
After Miami’s win over the Sixers, Haslem said his dust-up with Howard was fun.
“It’s a great memory. And, if this is the last one, I finished it the only way Udonis Haslem could: with an ejection,” he said.
“It was obviously very physical. Dwight plays the way Dwight plays, and it was just a conversation between me and him that I just wanted to make it clear that the throwing down and the swinging of the elbows and things like that, I just felt like we should kind of leave that out of the game for tonight. I think he kind of disagreed, so when he disagreed, I disagreed, and there was a whole bunch of disagreeing.”
Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra particularly enjoyed Haslem’s on-court scuffle, calling it his “favorite moment of the season so far,” in his postgame press conference.
“Excessive passion competitiveness and anger. Just love it, and thats why we roll with UD,” Spoelstra said. “Everybody in that locker room just has great respect and love for him.”
Haslem embodies the tough, rugged Heat culture that president Pat Riley is known to love and cultivate. He’s Miami’s all-time leading rebounder and won three championships with the Heat.
Haslem signed a new contract with the Heat in November 2020, his 18th season. It’s unclear if he plans to return to the roster next year.
“I don’t want to think about the next phase, and I don’t think we need to now,” Spoelstra said after Thursday’s game. “We’ve got enough on our plate. I know that’s all UD is thinking about, too.”
Miami’s win over the Sixers moved the No. 5 seed Heat to 39-31 — tied with the Knicks. Although Philadelphia fell to 47-23, they’re still the top seed in the Eastern Conference.